Monday, 31 May 2010

Jermaine Stewart 'Get Lucky'

Chart Peak: 13


And the award for ironic chart peak goes to...

In fact this was another last (UK) hit, although nobody knew at the time: Stewart seeemd to be on quite a roll with his second Top 20 smash of 1988. Indeed, he remained popular in Germany for a while longer, but this was it where the British Top 40 was concerned. Perhaps it was with an eye to these European markets that his record company (or whoever it was) found him this song, written by the British team of Simon Climie (already on this album as part of Climie Fisher) and Errol Brown (of Hot Chocolate).

'Get Lucky' is one of those songs there isn't a lot to say about, although that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's very obviously a product of its time, and it has no aspirations beyond a pop-oriented dance track for clubs. It's fine at what it does, no more and no less.

Connessieurs of artwork will be excited to know that this is the first time on the album when an act is represented by a single cover rather than the usual publicity photo.

Also appearing on: Now 8, 11

Saturday, 29 May 2010

The Communards 'There's More To Love'

Chart Peak: 20


Their final hit together, although apparently they never officially split, they just stopped doing things together. And yes, I always thought "than boy meets girl" was part of the title too, but apparently not; perhaps they thought it was a little bit too controversial or something. Even as part of the phrase though, it offers multiple meanings - the obvious one being the possibility that it might be boy meets boy, girl meets girl, boy meets girl who is actually boy, girl and girl meet other girl, etc... and that's certainly the tack taken by the rest of the lyric "But all around there's violence and laws/ to make me think again/ Maybe one day they will understand." And yet if you're young enough or unfamiliar enough with Jimmy Somerville's work before and after this not to make that connection, or even if you hear it far enough into the future for homophobia not be a problem any more (hey, we all live in hope) there's a broader way to understand the concept too: love isn't only about the brief moments that tend be the staples of pop music (and other music, come to that) but also about the joys and stresses of the longer haul.

So far on this blog I've tended to blow hot and cold rather about Jimmy Somerville's tracks, which tend to leave me feeling rather ambivalent. Maybe it's just the way the album's sequenced but this one has impressed me more than others, even though I don't remember especially liking it at the time. What really strikes me now is how joyful it is, something often tried and rarely attained. It makes this song sound less like a lecture than it might otherwise have done and makes this one of his most effective takes on the subject matter.

Also appearing on: Now 6, 8, 9, 10
Available on: The Singles Collection 1984/1990

Friday, 28 May 2010

Hazell Dean 'Who's Leaving Who?'

Chart Peak: 4


Hazell Dean is one of those people I remember being a pop star, but remember no music at all by. And now I've listened to this (see photo, which I've finally remembered to upload) I can tell why.

'Who's Leaving Who' was something of a comeback hit for her after a pair of Top 10 smashes in 1985 ('Whatever I Do (Wherever I Go)' was the first Top 10 success for Stock Aitken Waterman) though she'd charted a few singles outside the Top 40 in the interim. She teamed up again with SAW for this, although neither she nor they wrote it: it was released a couple of years earlier by Anne Murray, of all people to little success outside Canada. Full marks to them for spotting a potential hit, but it's a pretty dull song and not a very interesting production either.

Available on: Greatest Hits

Tiffany 'I Think We're Alone Now'

Chart Peak: 1 (3 weeks)


One thing that really sticks in my mind about this one is seeing the video on the Chart Show, and a little caption coming up saying that she "began singing around the house when she was two". My Dad asked, don't all children do that? He had a point there. I also remember trying to read the inscription in the wing mirror of the car ("OBJECTS IN THE MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR"), because British cars didn't have that. We didn't have shopping malls that size either, at least not then.

In 1988, the only reason I'd heard of Tommy James And The Shondells was because of Billy Idol's version of 'Mony Mony', which ironically enough went on to knock this off the top of the US chart. I didn't know then that the lyrics about heartbeats at the start and end of this version aren't actually on their original. Making the comparison, the Shondells are more the style of music I like, but Tiffany actually seems to capture the actual meaning rather better; despite the synthetic production, she really does sound like a breathless teenager. In fact now I'm about twice the age she was then, it's just a little bit uncomfortable. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but whenever I look up an old song on YouTube, there's almost certain to be a comment from somebody complaining that pop music has become too sexual since [insert date of record here]. Even on this song, which is blatantly about some teenagers sneaking off for some action out of sight of adults. Not that I knew when I was ten of course, I was too busy reading wing mirrors.

Available on: Greatest Hits

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Bananarama 'I Want You Back'

Chart Peak: 5


Funnily enough, when I bought Now 12 I couldn't remember a thing about this song except that it wasn't the Jackson Five one - the sleevenote doesn't feel the need to mention the difference here, unlike the Aswad case earlier, but perhaps that's because a remix of the Jacksons' track was in the charts at the same time as this.

Either way, once I played the record I recognised it instantly. This was (as I'd also forgotten) the first single to feature Jackie O'Sullivan, although the original album version featured the original band. This being deep into the SAW era, though, it doesn't seem to matter all that much who's singing, even if the Nanas seemed to have more creative input than most of their charges and indeed co-wrote the song. Mostly, it seems to be one of those songs that piles on a whole batch of mediocre choruses instead of one really strong one, leading to a rather bitty effect. It passes the time I suppose, but it's not really surprising that I don't seem to be the only one who's forgotten it.

Also appearing on: 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14 (with Lananeeneenoonoo), 15
Available on: The Very Best of Bananarama

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Sabrina 'Boys (Summertime Love)'

Chart Peak: 3

YouTube [possibly NSFW]
Big in France, big in Italy, big just about everywhere, that's Sabrina. The teenager from Genoa crashed in at No 24 on 5/6/88 and had raced to No. 4 by 12/6/88

To be strictly accurate, this single first breached the Top 75 in January 1988, but it was hardly suited to the season (there's a clue in the title) so it was only on repromotion that it became a real hit, almost a year after it had topped the French and Italian charts. It's decidedly lightweight Eurodance late-80s style, distinctive mainly for the notorious video I've linked to above, which was apparently banned from British television until substantially edited. Apparently it was originally part of a daytime TV show in Italy which is sadly all too easy to believe.

In 1988 I was far too young to be interested in that sort of thing, but the song itself was catchy enough for me to enjoy it anyway. In some ways it's still easier to appreciate now than other songs that were trying harder to be good, but I wouldn't pretend this was musically worthwhile. Luckily, nobody had to. The thing that I remembered most about it was probably the looped look-I-got-a-sampler-for-my-birthday intro of "BoysBOYSboysboysboysboys", which seems to have been cut from the video there.

Available on: Big Tunes - Back 2 The 80s

Monday, 24 May 2010

The Timelords 'Doctorin' The Tardis'

Chart Peak: 1 (1 week)


Glasgow, J.A.M.M., Dagenham, Hayes (Middx), The BBC Stereophonic Workshop,{sic} Banbury, Enfield... Put 'em all together & you get "Doctor in'{sic} the Tardis"... Materialised at No. 22 on 29/5/88, had swept to No.1 by 12/6/88...
Materialised... see what they've done there?
This was a record that I had a certain fascination with when I was ten. Like many boys of my age I loved Dr Who even when I didn't understand it (and some vestige of that interest is presumably why I spent two hours reading Wikipedia articles about old episodes last night instead of writing this post) and I was rather keen on the idea of a car making a record. In fact, I remember reading the back cover of I think the 12" single in WH Smith, although it doesn't seem to have occured to me at the time to buy it, or any other record for that matter. I think I've made up for it since...

Perhaps I should clarify for younger or non-British readers what this actually is: the first mainstream (if pseudonymous) hit for the KLF and arguably the first mash-up Number One, over a decade before anybody called them that. As that sleevenote suggests, it combines the classic sci-fi theme with the chanted refrain from Gary Glitter's 'Rock And Roll Part II' [which is presumably one reason you don't hear it much nowadays], another glam riff which I didn't recognise at the time but now know as 'Blockbuster' by The Sweet, the "You Wot!" chant popularised by Steve Walsh (who died while the single was on the chart) and other British culture references. Allegedly, they'd started out with the intention of making a serious club record based on the Who theme, but found the time signature was unsuitable, although Orbital later had a go. Either way, they ended up heading right for the lowest common denominator, producing something probably best appreciated by ten-year-olds; well, ten-year-olds at the time, anyway, I don't suppose people who were born in 2000 would get the joke.

It's obviously wrong to criticise this record for being inane or greedy when that was clearly the whole point, but like a lot of highbrow novelties, the requirement to be in on the joke (at least if you're an adult) leaves a slightly nasty taste behind, irrespective of what we now know about one of the people who has a writing credit. Compared to other prank singles by the KLF, it at least works as a novelty, but it's possibly more a source of nostalgia now: you can imagine the years of lawsuits and pages of extra credits this track would have to have now. And the video's quite funny too, though oddly it's a minute shorter than the actual record.

Available on: Doctorin' the Tardis

Saturday, 22 May 2010

T'Pau 'I Will Be With You'

Chart Peak: 14

Previous 4 singles all made Top 30... A new release on 13/6/88
If I'd ever heard it before, thought, I don't remember that. In fact, I don't think I bothered to play it when I first obtained Now 12 either, so I'm effectively hearing it for the first time. And I've got to say that it's not doing a lot for me now. Thuddy eighties-style drums punctuate a fairly bland song that sounds like a fifth single even to those of us who don't remember the third and fourth. Carol Decker's voice is very thin too, but I'm guessing that's not where people's attention was at the time.

Side 2 has been an interesting ride and remarkably diverse, with two tracks that would seem like outliers on any Now album at all. But as it peters out here and goes back into its inner bag, the time comes to look forward to another change of mood on the second disc.

Also appearing on: Now 10, 11, 13
Available on: Bridge Of Spies

Friday, 21 May 2010

Heart 'These Dreams'

Chart Peak: 8 (62 in 1986)


It's long been common practice in the music business to capitalise on a breakthrough hit by revisiting underperforming old material, but it's normal to stick with the last couple of singles. In this case though, EMI decided to mark the band's 1987 success by reaching back to their 1985 untitled album: 'Alone' had been the group's first UK chart single in early 1986, almost a decade after they'd first been seen in the album chart, but didn't come close to its US chart-topping performance. Not until it was reactivated, technically as a double-A with 'Never' a US Top 5 hit that failed to chart here in its own right, and which seems to be named after the number of times I've heard it.

Maybe it's apt that they didn't give the parent album a title, because this does sound like a record that's almost scared of identity. It's got a moderately catchy tune and Nancy Wilson delivers a gutsy vocal despite (or because of) a cold on the day of the session, but the overall effect is pretty generic. You can see why Stevie Nicks rejected it.

Also appearing on: Now 10
Available on: Heart

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Iron Maiden 'Can I Play With Madness?'

Chart Peak: 3


Sometimes when I notice connections between consecutive tracks on a Now! album, I find myself wondering whether there's a deliberate in-joke in the sequencing. And so it is here, since this doesn't seem an obvious sequel to that previous track (or, admittedly, any of the others) except that of course Woody Woodgate, the drummer from Voice Of The Beehive, did play with Madness throughout their career (and has indeed resumed doing so since).

'Can I Play With Madness' is, according to people who know more about Iron Maiden than I do, a bit of a departure from their earlier work. The album Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (aptly enough, their seventh LP) was their first attempt at a concept album and apparently also features synthesisers, though I've never been able to hear them on this particular track. However, it does sound like an attempt to reach out to a wider audience, with a relatively conventional structure and a compact running time of three-and-a-half minutes. Bruce Dickinson even bellows the title of the song at the start and end to grab your attention and make sure you know what to look for in Woolworths. They even brought in Graham Chapman for the video, which must have been one of his last professional engagements before he died. I don't know how established fans felt about it, but it paid off as the single entered at 4 (only their second ever Top 10 appearance) and climbed in its second week; I'm guessing the picture disc was only released in that week or something. The album itself topped the chart and spawned a further three Top 10 hits and of course most of their material for the next couple of decades did similarly well, though they never showed up on another Now album.

For all that though, it's a record I find it slightly hard to engage with in any way. I don't hate it but I don't really like it either. I suppose I have some sort of respect for it, and it's certainly different from anything else on here.

Available on: Somewhere Back in Time: the Best of: 1980-1989

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Voice Of The Beehive 'Don't Call Me Baby'

Chart Peak: 15


Tenuous link fans take note: this post is published on the day my tenth wedding anniversary, as a result of which I know that the Number One single exactly ten years ago was also called 'Don't Call Me Baby', albeit an entirely different song by Madison Avenue. Fortunately, it doesn't seem to have been an omen.

As to the song, it's another song I recall liking at the time, and another one that was a big success and seems well-remembered now without quite fitting into the standard idea of what Eighties music was, beyond the obvious production values. It's supposed to be a song to an ex-boyfriend warning him not to try to rekindle the relationship but of course it's clear soon enough that it's precisely what she does want, whatever his future girlfriend(s) might think of it. There's something impressively subtle in the cattiness of that lyric "I think she's pretty, and I think that you have done quite well..." that hardly needs the rhyme "I still say you can never tell" to underline the point. It's a song I was happy to hear again, although certainly not flawless; those backing vocals on the later chorus are a bit irritating and the middle-eight seems to be in the wrong place somehow. But it brightens things up a bit.

Also appearing on: Now 20
Available on: The Best of Voice of the Beehive

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Johnny Hates Jazz 'Heart Of Gold'

Chart Peak: 19

Curiously enough, this is a single I remember for non-musical reasons: a Saturday-morning children's programme held a competition to take a cover photo for this single, and I recall them showing a film of the winner getting to meet the band and professional photographer who took the picture they actually used with the same model and location. I thought the original version was better, though. Whilst I must have heard the song itself at the time, I had no memory at all of it until I listened back to it on Now 12, and I was quite surprised to discover that, as my adult self can tell, it's blatantly a song about a prostitute, a sort of 'Roxanne' with synth-brass (er, no pun intended!). That possibly makes appearing on the cover less of a prize for the competition-winner's friend than it seemed at the time...

This story seems to encapsulate something about JHJ, caught between teenybop and the soul music they seemed to want to make (although one of them was Mickie Most's son, so possibly not determined to stay in the musical underground). The pitfall is, though, that when they tried to write about serious subjects their lyrics struggled to rise beyond the most obvious clichés, and this song suffers pretty badly from that. It's musically solid but no more and (in my experience at least) not very memorable, and moderate success seems about right for it. In fact this was their fourth Top 20 hit in a row, but they were never again seen in the Top 40.

Also appearing on:Now 10, 11
Available on: The Very Best of Johnny Hates Jazz

Friday, 14 May 2010

Danny Wilson 'Mary's Prayer'

Chart Peak: 3


A hit at the third time of asking, 'Mary's Prayer' is a song I clearly remember liking at the time. In fact I recall liking their non-Top 75 single 'The Girl I Used To Know' as well. All these years later, there's something slightly underwheming about it that I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it's that it doesn't sound as distinctive now, especially with the decidedly of-its-time production; rather more fretless bass than seems justified. So it is that I've ended up with two copies of the track on this computer but haven't really felt much urge to listen to it, except when I'm doing this sort of thing.  And it's a pity because this is one of those records that I still feel fondness for even if I'm not bothered about actually hearing it. 

Also appearing on: Now 15
Available on: Meet Danny Wilson

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

M*rrissey 'Everyday Is Like Sunday'

Chart Peak: 9


Two Now appearances from as many solo singles for the Mozzer there, and that's already more than the Smiths managed in their entire career. For good measure, this charted higher than any Smiths single had at the time, although a re-release of 'The Charming Man' finally peaked at 8 in 1992.

There are some songs I don't look forward to writing about because I don't want to to make myself listen to them. There are others I don't look forward to writing about because I doubt my ability to add anything to the sum of human knowledge about them, and this falls firmly into the latter category. What I can tell you is that I was obviously not particularly interested in this song when I was ten years old, but I do clearly remember my Dad taping the video from the telly (presumably the Chart Show) and seeing it quite a few times. In fact, the video probably made more impression on me at the time than the song, because it looks so different from just about any other pop video you would see back then: in 1988, even The Wedding Present were making videos that looked like this. It was probably one of the first times I saw a depiction of vegetarianism too, although I didn't take it up myself for another twenty years. Had I but realised, my younger self would probably have been quite impressed by all the people who are buying the single itself in the video.

Curiously, the disc label attributes the writing credit to M*rrissey; the music was of course written by Stephen Street, who also produces and plays bass. It's not entirely surprising that the relationship between M*rrissey and Street ended acrimoniously (and remains so: only a couple of weeks ago lawyers were called in to stop Street playing a demo track in a radio documentary. With this and the singles either side of it, though, it's a pity Street doesn't seem to have pursued his songwriting career any further. The other players on this single are Vini Reilly of the Durrutti Column on those fascinating ringing guitars, and drummer Andrew Paresi, who also used to do those Splicer's Disease sketches on Loose Ends. Between them they conjure exactly the gloomy atmosphere required by the lyric, and yet there's a certain beauty that stops this being purely depressing. Perhaps there's a tinge of affection in there too, and not only because a man who's made a career of being miserable can't afford to live in a world without misery.

Also appearing on: Now 11, 14
Available on: the internet, probably.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Hothouse Flowers 'Don't Go'

Chart Peak: 11
A hit thanks to Johnny Logan!?... His Eurovision success in 1987 led to the 1988 contest being held in Dublin... While the judges were deciding who to vote for on game[sic] Hothouse Flowers to reach an audience of millions... Charted at No 47 on 8/5/88, peaked at No 11 on 22/5/88.
Side 2 starts with the longest sleeve note so far, setting the scene for the first and biggest hit by this Irish group. In fact this was their only Top 20 hit, with only three more singles even reaching the Top 40, though I'd never got the impression they were particularly perceived as a one-hit wonder. Possibly it's because they were, for at least a while, a pretty successful album act (even I have their second album somewhere, although I don't remember it that well). And they even got to be in an episode of Lovejoy.

The label tells me that 'Don't Go' was produced by Langer & Winstanley, best known for their work on almost anything Madness have ever recorded. But the only real connection is the saxophone: where Madness had a tendency to conceal the seriousness in their music, this track wears a certain earnestness on its sleeve. Not that it's an obviously serious song, but they seem to want you to know they're "real musicians". And though I wouldn't have spotted this at the time, there's a bit of E-Street Band in there too. It's a fun pop record for all that though.

As it turned out, Eurovision 1988 produced another star: the winning Swiss entry was performed by Céline Dion, then unknown outside the Francophone world.

Available on: People

Monday, 10 May 2010

Phil Collins 'In The Air Tonight ('88 remix)'

Chart Peak: 4 (original version No.2 in 1981)


Although I remembered that it existed, I didn't really remember what the 1988 remix sounded like, so when I got Now 12 home I made a point of listening to this track. It sounded remarkably restrained, I thought, especially compared to so many of Ben Liebrand's other remixes (and his production work on 'Holiday Rap'); in fact it wasn't that different from the original at all. Only later did it occur to me to use the resources of the Internet to check up on this, and whilst I've only tracked down the 12" version of the remix online I can tell from there that it's not what I've got here. In fact, without wishing to exaggerate my Phil-Collins-related expertise, I've worked out that what I actually have here is the original UK single version, distinguishable from the more widely-available album cut by the extra drums on the earlier verses. I don't know whether this applies to every pressing of the compilation, but it's certainly the case on mine, which complicates the post a bit.

Of course, those drums (overdubbed at the insistence of Ahmet Ertegun, apparently) aren't the most memorable drums on the record. It's doubtless a matter of debate among fans whether they even should be there, or whether we should be kept waiting with just the drum machine. Even though he'd been lead singer of Genesis for more than half a decade by this time, Collins had little experience as a songwriter when he started a solo career, and by his account at least the lyric was improvised in the studio. It's a plausible claim, if less so than when he says it about 'Sussudio', but he doesn't deny that he was also influenced by the break-up of his marriage. What he ended up up with as the launch of his solo work is in some respects more of a mood piece than a song, as the minimal instrumentation and creeping pace generate an atmosphere of a storm about to break, just as the title suggests.

BA-DUM BA-DUM BA-DUM BA DUM CRASH! is what you've waiting for, and it finally happens at about 3:49 on my copy. The storm breaks, and it's a relief, but it leaves very little for the remainder of the song to do, pushing the focus onto the vocal which really isn't the best part of it. Still, the 1981 version stands up better than it was socially acceptable to admit until a couple of years ago. And yet it was a victim of its own success in a way; not only that the sheer familiarity of the record dulls its impact, but that it perhaps inadvertantly made Collins a major star in his own right, launching him into two decades of formulaic hits and albums that shifted massive units but never worked the way this does. Only last week, he announced that he wouldn't make any more albums if people kept criticising him, and I can't help thinking it's worth a try.

And just for reference, the 1988 remix isn't very good, because it fluffs the main point of the track by having beats all the way through. And it's still too slow to dance to.

Also appearing on: Now 1, 3, 5, 6, 13, 14, 17, 18, 27, 41, 44, 68 [original version of this track]
Available on: Face Value [album version]

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Scritti Politti 'Oh Patti (Don't Feel Sorry For Loverboy)'

Chart Peak: 13


There aren't many acts who give me such mixed feelings as Scritti Politti, and not only because the name is so difficult to type. I recall liking the hits when I was a child, although at the peak of his/their success in the mid-eighties I was young enough to like pretty much anything with a catchy tune. Listening back as an adult, I'm sometimes impressed by the clean production (and the reinvention from their early work, which I obviously wasn't aware of at the time) and the lyrics that seem clever even if I don't always understand them: at other times it's this very sense of self-conscious cleverness that repels me, and I've never really known what I think of Green's voice.

After three years' silence, 'Oh Patti' was the lead single from the third album Provision, and it lacks the reggae sound of some of the hits from Cupid & Psyche. Instead the focus is very much on the smoothness, and the overall effect is not dissimilar to Prefab Sprout (whom I like but sometimes go through phases of not being able to listen to) on helium. As the sleevenote points out, this track is also notable for the trumpet solo by jazz legend Miles Davis, who'd apparently been a fan of Scritti's only major US hit, 'Perfect Way'. Even as I struggle to form an opinion on this myself, it's obvious why this was a hit, but not totally surprising that the public seemed to be more or less sated by now: this was the (admittedly not very prolific) act's last hit to come from an album, although the collaboration with Shabba Ranx on an odd cover of a Beatles flipside did make for one last Top 20 success.

One little detail I don't remember at all from the time is the slightly cheeky extra snare beat at the very end of the track, which seems to go some way to undercut the polish of the preceding four minutes. I suspect it was faded out by many a DJ back then, but in this context it neatly presages the next track.

Also appearing on: Now 5, 19
Available on: Provision

Friday, 7 May 2010

Elton John 'I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That'

Chart Peak: 30

Charted at No. 57 on 29/5/88, had reached No. 41 by 12/6/88
Well, doesn't that sleevenote just drip with excitement?The eagle-eyed will notice that those dates are the Sundays on which the chart would have been announced, as opposed to the official chart date that shows up in reference books and so on, which would be the following Saturday. As well as giving us a clue to when the sleeve went to press, this implies that much further progress was expected from the single, and I do remember hearing it quite a bit at the time. In the event, though, it stalled at 30 for a fortnight and dropped away fast thereafter; indeed it was his last Top 40 single of the decade here. Mind you, it went on to do rather better in the USA, peaking at 2 behind his fellow Briton George Michael.

In the UK at least, the second half of the 1980s seem to have been a pretty tough time for Elton, personally and professionally, and he's described the Reg Strikes Back album from which this track came as an attempt to get his mojo. As a song, it's solid rather than impressive, with a fairly by-the-book Bernie Taupin lyric about a man who doesn't want to share his girlfriend, and the most generous description would be harmless fluff, but as I've said before I often find him more tolerable in this mood that when he's trying to be important.
Where it really goes pear-shaped is the production. It doesn't stand out so much in the video but when you listen in stereo and especially on headphones, the dominant element is the drum machine which beats out the unexciting and unchanging rhythm for four and a half minutes. It sounds more like a click-track for the studio than something you're actually meant to hear and it's quite a surprise that a producer with the track record of Chris Thomas could ever think this a good idea. On the upside, it's apparently one of the few tracks of this era where Elton gets to do the thing that was his original claim to fame, ie playing the piano, though you wouldn't know it from his gorilla-like efforts in the video. Speaking of the video, doesn't he look a bit like Alexei Sayle at around 0:40?

Also appearing on: Now 4, 6, 11, 18, 22, 56, 61 (with 2Pac), 62
Available on: Reg Strikes Back

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Metapost: no post today

In the interests of preserving my independence on polling day, I've decided to hold off the next track until tomorrow lest the song title be seen as partisan.

Any connection to my not having written the post yet is, of course, entirely coincendental. See you tomorrow, folks.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Climie Fisher 'Love Changes (Everything)'

Chart Peak: 2


Sometimes this blog is quite a learning experience for me. Knowing that Simon Climie had gone onto a successful career as a songwriter and producer after this, I'd somehow come to the conclusion that he was the non-singing half of Climie Fisher. But, I discovered when researching for this post, he was the singer after all, and the late Rob Fisher was the silent partner in the duo.

I suppose by admitting that I didn't know which was which until the day before yesterday, I've rather given away how much I cared about this record, which is catchy but suggests that they put as much imagination into their songwriting as they did into naming their band.
It's all topped off by Climie's attempts to sound soulful. Even at the time I remember not liking this as much as their other big hit, 'Rise To The Occasion'. I also remember thinking they were singing "Love makes the rules and fools two kings" which I thought must be some sort of chess metaphor. Looking back now, the most impressive thing about this is the look of apparent contempt on Fisher's face throughout the rather hammy video. I can't say I blame him.

On a trivial note (even more than the rest, I mean) if you ignore the brackets, this was the first of two songs of this title to peak at the same position within a year (the other is on the next-but-one Now album).

Also appearing on: Now 11, 14
Available on: Everything.....Plus

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Aswad 'Give A Little Love'

Chart Peak: 11

Not the Bay City Rollers song...Their second hit this year...charted at No. 41 on 15/5/88, had made No. 11 by 5/6/88
That rather elliptical sleevenote seems designed to gloss over the fact that this was the follow-up to a Number One: that was of course 'Don't Turn Around', which didn't show up on a Now album, the then-independent Island records having licensed it to the rival Hits 8 instead. And whilst it's true that this isn't the same one with which the Rollers topped the chart, they don't seem in any hurry to mention that it was previously the B-side of a flop Bucks Fizz single.

Like 'Don't Turn Around' (itself a former B-side, for Tina Turner), 'Give A Little Love' comes from the pens of Albert Hammond (Sr) and Diane Warren, and it matches their reputations for platitudinous blandness and saleability. Aswad themselves have enough good-natured charm to make this not unpleasant, but it's difficult to be enthusiastic at this remove. It's also a little hard to believe now that this was ever considered to be reggae music; sounding more like somebody just pressed the "calypso" button on a synthesiser and walked away.

Also appearing on: Now 28
Available on: Reggae Greats

Monday, 3 May 2010

Maxi Priest 'Wild World'

Chart Peak: 5


A cover of the 1970 hit by Jimmy Cliff, which was in turn written by Cat Stevens, though Cliff's version was the first to receive a UK release, some months before the song showed up on Stevens' album Tea For The Tillerman. That same album also included another song that was a big hit for somebody else in the form of 'Father And Son', so it's possible to imagine this as a sort of female counterpart; that was presumably what led one YouTune commenter to say " i had my daughter listen shes only 13 and i dread the day she starts her own life". In truth (or at least on Wikipedia) Stevens wrote the song in response to his break-up with girlfriend Patti D'Arbanville, and perhaps if he wrote it in real pain it's easier to forgive the faintly threatening tone of some of the lyrics. 

Of course, Maxi Priest is far too nice a guy to want to probe any of this psychological detail. In fact, for all that he drops in a "Please don't go" at the start of the track (after the self-consciously dramatic intro), he actually sounds quite cheery for most of the song, and this combines with the upbeat pop-reggae production to create a record that's actually quite fun if you don't think too much about it. It shows its age now, though, most unfortunately in that nobody seemed to want to release short singles in those days, and this version being faster than the previous takes means that they have to repeat the same parts a little too often to pad it out. But who am I to complain about that?

Also appearing on: Now 25 (with Shabba Ranx), 34 (with Shaggy)
Available on: The Best of Me

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Belinda Carlisle 'Circle In The Sand'

Chart Peak: 4


When I wrote about Ms Carlisle before, I mentioned the effect I recall this track having on my younger self. Since I also went on to say how much the track I was reviewing there disappointed me in retrospect, it was with both trepidation and embarassment that I re-approached 'Circle In The Sand'. Actually, it's weathered somewhat better than its younger sibling, although it has nothing like the same impact on me as an adult. Probably no bad thing, to be fair.

It does actually seem to have something nursery-rhyme-like about it now. It sounds decidedly artificial too, but in a way that actually helps here, as the constant drum machine seems to accentuate the circularity of the song; indeed it comes as something of a surprise that the songs comes to an actual end instead of the fade it seems to be heading for. It also makes a good background for her vocal, which is technically limited but delivers a decent amount of personality, especially towards the end. It's a pity the middle eight seems to go nowhere though.I wouldn't go out of my way to listen to this nowadays, but I have more affection for it than I expected.

Also appearing on: Now 11, 16, 18, 19, 20, 26, 34, 35
Available on: A Place on Earth: the Greatest Hits

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Wet Wet Wet 'With A Little Help From My Friends'

Chart Peak: 1 (4 weeks)


And we're back ten years exactly to the summer of 1988. Once upon a time I'd planned to do Now XIII instead, but then I saw 12 in a charity shop for 99p, and one thing leads to another...

In fact it's quite apposite that this album kicks off with a single that I bought in a charity shop some years previously - indeed I must now have had it for longer than the original owner, even if I don't play it that often - particularly since it was a charity single* to begin with. Truly, it is the gift that keeps on giving. For those unfamiliar with the backstory, the NME organised the benefit album Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father to mark the 21st anniversary of the most famous Beatles album and raise some money for Childline. To help it along, a single was pulled from the LP (or cassette!) coupling this track by the Wets with the contrasting 'She's Leaving Home' by Billy Bragg With Cara Tivey which became the first Number One single for either act. More interestingly, 'With A Little Help From My Friends' became the first (and still the only) Beatles song to top the charts in more than one version, following its success for Joe Cocker in 1968 - the original was, ironically, a Top 75 hit in 1978 as part of an ill-advised attempt to cash in on the Sgt Pepper film.

As any regular readers of this blog may have noticed, a long preamble like this tends to mean I'm putting off trying to find anything to say about the record itself. And so it is here, since I can't imagine anyone interested not already being familiar with the source material and the band don't produce an especially convincing or distinctive version. In fairness to them, they presumably weren't given a lot of time to work on this, but it would still have been welcome had they come up with a more interesting idea than playing it slightly faster and repeating "my friends" to fade. The fundamental problem is, I think, that Marti Pellow comes over as too confident a vocalist to carry off the light-hearted, giving-it-a-go charm of the original. Not long afterwards, this and Cocker's interpretations of the song collided as the finale of a charity concert, where Pellow somehow manages to be even more annoying. It's not the best of starts, but it's not as bad as the Grease megamix.

*An asterisk on the back cover of the LP indicates that "All royalties from this track are being donated to Childline". Since I don't anticipate making any money from this blog post, it seems the next best thing I can do is provide a link to make a donation online.

Also appearing on: Now 10, 11, 16, 21, 28, 31, 37, 38
Available on: End of Part One